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Schools stay open for now, but coronavirus limits visits to aged care

Michael Weaver 18 March 2020 23
School children sitting at an assembly

Schools in the ACT will remain open following measures announced by the Prime Minister. Photo: File.

The ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more will not affect schools in the ACT according to the measures announced by the Prime Minister this morning (18 March), meaning all schools in the ACT will remain open and there will be no change to the schedule for school holidays.

The Prime Minister said he can’t guarantee there won’t be school closures at some point in the next six months, but those decisions will be guided by the medical advice.

The ACT Education Directorate has released information saying that all sporting and music events, school assemblies and parent/teacher nights have been cancelled in order to slow the rate of infection from COVID-19.

A spokesperson from ACT Education said there were no plans as yet to change school holidays.

This clear message from Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Brendan Murphy, was that there would be a far more catastrophic effect on teachers and students if schools were to close.

“The health advice supported by all jurisdictions is that schools should remain open,” Mr Morrison said.

He said the only reason children shouldn’t be at school is if they are unwell.

“Don’t leave it to the teacher to work that out. It is the responsibility of parents to manage this.

As well as an immediate ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more, Australians are still being advised to stay away from non-essential outdoor gatherings of 500 or more.

Places of essential gatherings include airports, public transport, medical facilities, aged care facilities, jails, courts, parliaments, supermarkets, office buildings, mining sites, education sites (schools, universities), childcare, retail centres, businesses and offices.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr said today Canberra’s indoor cinemas, theatres, seated restaurants, cafes, licensed premises would all be significantly affected but would need to look at ways to operate at a reduced capacity. He also said advice was being considered by National Cabinet for venues with a capacity below 100 people.

“What people can expect is with the social distancing principals applied, the occupancy loading for venues of all sizes will come down,” Mr Barr said. “That will enable activities to occur but with a significantly reduced risk.

“I need to be clear that there is no risk elimination here, just risk reduction and that’s what we’re working towards for at least six months, if not longer.”

The Chief Medical Officer said social distancing recommendations remain in place, including not to shake hands or hug. For schools, it was important that no sick student or teacher went to school and hand hygiene was vital.

“So it will be hard for schools, but it would be much, much, much harder for society if the schools were closed,” he said. “We want our children to be looked after in schools.

“This is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

Professor Murphy said a two- to four-week shutdown of schools is not recommended and won’t achieve anything.

“We are in this for the long haul and our measures have to be sustainable. We can’t lock down schools for a month and then unlock them.

“This is different from influenza. We know that even in flu epidemics, school closures are controversial. We don’t know if children are asymptomatic,” Professor Murphy said.

However, tougher restrictions are being placed on aged care facilities where visits to residents will be limited to two people at a time, per day, in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak to the most vulnerable in the community.

In end-of-life situations, facilities will have the discretion to put very strict arrangements in place to enable family members to see relatives.

Restrictions at aged care facilities in the ACT include:

  • No visitors or staff who have returned from overseas in the past 14 days will be allowed in aged care facilities
  • Anyone who has confirmed contact with a case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days will not be allowed in
  • Those with fever, symptoms, acute respiratory infection will not be allowed in
  • People who haven’t been vaccinated against the flu won’t be allowed in after 1 May
  • Visits will also be limited to a short duration with a maximum of two people at one time per day
  • Visits should be conducted in a resident’s room, outdoors or in a specific area designated by the facility, rather than communal areas where the risk of transmission to other residents is greater
  • There will be no group visits or gatherings; no school group visits will be allowed
  • Children under 16 will only be allowed to visit by exception.
For information on COVID-19, visit ACT Health or the Federal Health Department. You can also call the Coronavirus Health Information Line on 1800 020 080.

What's Your Opinion?


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23 Responses to Schools stay open for now, but coronavirus limits visits to aged care
Denise Bourke Denise Bourke 11:20 pm 18 Mar 20

what are the actions that schools need to be taking to keep them functioning well? ... ideas from Singapore.

Trish Deards Trish Deards 9:33 pm 18 Mar 20

Many carers for kids will.be older grandparents.

Boyo Birch Boyo Birch 8:42 pm 18 Mar 20

Good choice

Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 8:31 pm 18 Mar 20

Kids aren't likely to catch COVID-19. Having them in school will reduce the burden on parents or other relatives to care for them.

    Fiona Snow Fiona Snow 9:45 pm 19 Mar 20

    Why are they unlikely to catch it?

    Russell Nankervis Russell Nankervis 7:45 am 20 Mar 20

    No deaths have been reported for anyone under 30 and no one under 10 has ever caught it

Invis.Abilities Invis.Abilities 7:52 pm 18 Mar 20

Just advise those who can to keep their children out, as many parents who stay or work from home are doing now anyway. This limits the number of kids at school & hopefully you can cut down the number of staff too. If kids are spreading the virus without symptoms, there will be many more people who become infected in the long run.

Steve Smith Steve Smith 7:44 pm 18 Mar 20

Guys, this is all about how many people would be taken out of the work force if they had to stay at home looking after their kids, nothing else.

Teresa Bostle Teresa Bostle 6:59 pm 18 Mar 20

It's like they have this bizarre view of schools, with hundreds of children, but no adults, just childminding robots. Who cannot get sick from their charges - unlike teachers. Who are not children, who can be, and often are, in risk groups. Does my head in.

    Theia Rose Theia Rose 7:04 pm 18 Mar 20

    Teresa Bostle I hadn't looked at it that way, that's a valid point

Bill Bostle Bill Bostle 6:15 pm 18 Mar 20

Bushfires: for reasons of economic and political self-interest, policy makers refuse to listen to front-line firefighters and modellers outside a very small number of compliant advisers. Covid-19: policy makers refuse to listen to teachers and immunologists outside a very small number of compliant health advisers. Anyone see a pattern here?

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 2:14 pm 18 Mar 20

So....kids sport is cancelled but school isn't, you can't have a meeting of 100 people, but 1500 kids together is fine. In what world do you classify those activities as separate and 1 less risky than the other? The answer is they are'nt, but the government thinks that people are so unthinking that they will not see the disparity/stupidity of their announcments.

    Nathan Minerds Nathan Minerds 2:32 pm 18 Mar 20

    Kriso Hadskini the government is acting on the Chief Medical Officers advice. The majority of Canberra is acting on Dr Facebook’s advice.

    Currently 0.0006% of Canberra’s population has the virus.

    Robyn Baker Robyn Baker 2:35 pm 18 Mar 20

    And most class rooms have 30 kids or less in them. 1500 kids in one school do not all sit together at lunchtime, they space out. Assemblies are not being done anymore so the schools are abiding by there's than 100 people in an indoor event...

    Kids sport is different. Most are team sports with contact, or ball sports that the whole team are touching, quite different to school.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 2:40 pm 18 Mar 20

    Nathan Minerds yep I get that.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 2:45 pm 18 Mar 20

    Robyn Baker I am a teacher, currently on a study break and I can tell you that kids are mixing all day everyday. For eg at my daughter's school all 250 kids in yr 7 have their lockers in one quite cramped corridor, they are all there together on top of each other every morning and every afternoon at 3.20. It is just how it is. Even simple things like letting out half the kids 5 mins earlier to get their stuff and then the other half haven't been implemented. I just think it is a bit of a dream scenario every one is holding onto, but whatever, what will be will be.

    Paul Irving Paul Irving 8:21 pm 18 Mar 20

    Kriso. How would you feel about me telling you how to do your job? When you are qualified in public health epidemiology and virology you get to tell those with similar qualifications specifically employed to study and advise on epidemics how to do their job. Until then you are just a teacher arguing for special treatment. If we follow your logic, all shops, hospitals, clinics, malls, emergency responders, firemen, care givers, public servants, etc. also get to shut down.

    So take responsibility for your community contribution to managing risk.

    Jasper Roo Jasper Roo 10:01 pm 18 Mar 20

    Paul it happens all the time. By the public, the media and the government. Welcome to the club.

    Kathryn Pengilley Kathryn Pengilley 10:26 pm 18 Mar 20

    Kriso Hadskini it’s about minimizing risk not eradicating risk. It about cancelling non essential get togethers, school is essential for more than one reason.

    Cass Proudfoot Cass Proudfoot 8:02 am 19 Mar 20

    In high school they Move rooms every hour, sitting at 6 desks a day, with 6 different groups of 30 kids, and they all crush through the corridors with 800 other people every hour.

    Nora Rovner-New Nora Rovner-New 9:50 am 19 Mar 20

    Nathan Minerds we only know of reported cases. No one really knows how many people are out and about who shouldn't be.

    Nora Rovner-New Nora Rovner-New 9:53 am 19 Mar 20

    Kathryn Pengilley does the virus ask itself: "wait, don't infect school children, that's essential" "yes! Let's infect people at the art gallery, that's non-essential".

    Fiona Snow Fiona Snow 7:56 pm 19 Mar 20

    But Scotty from marketing says...

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